A U.S. helicopter operating in Afghanistan (file photo) (AFP)
June 5, 2006 -- The U.S. ambassador to Kabul says about 20,000 American troops will remain in Afghanistan after handing control of the country's southwest to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in the coming weeks.
That's down from about 23,000 U.S. troops there now.
But Ambassador Ronald Neumann says the United States will remain involved in the south in a variety of combat support roles.
The comment came one day after ISAF commander General David Richards said NATO will be sending as many as 6,000 troops to southern Afghanistan -- twice the current number -- as the alliance prepares to expand its mission there.
The NATO-led ISAF also plans to expand into eastern Afghanistan later this year.